Jaipur: Civil servants in Rajasthan have been frequently locking horns with their bosses — the ministers.
The latest case in point is the defiance shown by Ravi Shanker Srivastava, the chairman of Rajasthan State Roadways Transport Corporation (RSRTC).
Last week, Srivastava had stopped the tender process of purchasing electric buses — defying his boss, Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas.
The RSRTC chairman had some reservations over the tender process and about the running cost of the e-buses. Minister Khachariyawas, however, said nothing was wrong in the tender process.
On 7 February, at a public function, the minister had said the RSRTC was going to purchase 48 new electric buses to restart the bus services from Bikaner House in Delhi. The RSRTC had to stop the service after a Supreme Court directive.
‘Bureaucrats keep MLAs waiting outside their office’
Srivastava is not the only civil servant who is going up against his boss. Such defiance by civil servants appears to have become a norm in Rajasthan.
On 9 February, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had transferred five IAS officers over
differences with ministers.
But a Congress leader said that IAS officers show such defiance as they know that CM Gehlot is running the state with their help.
“Officers are not bothered about ministers as they know the latter can’t do anything to them as long as they have the CMO’s support,” the Congress leader told ThePrint.
“The CM recently transferred a few bureaucrats after repeated instances of defiance by them. Otherwise, the CM is running the state through IAS officers,” the leader added.
“The power is now concentrated in the CMO, irrespective of which party is in power. The bureaucrats are so powerful that they keep MLAs waiting outside their office. Just think of it, during our previous tenure, the government had to issue circular to bureaucrats to pay respect to the MLAs,” a senior Congress MLA said.
Last week, the Gehlot government transferred transport department’s Principal Secretary Rajesh Yadav to PHED (Public Health Engineering Department).
Yadav had differences with Khachariyawas over the implementation of the central government’s Motor Vehicles Act.
The transport minster had last month said the state government would not impose hefty penalties on traffic rule violators.
Khachariyawas had even said that officers in his department wanted to implement the central legislation without any changes, but he didn’t let it happen.
There was another tiff between a minister and a civil servant that reached a point where the minister even stopped coming to office.
This was state Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh, who wasn’t happy with CMD of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Kunj Bihari Pandya, besides other officers in his department.
Pandya was moved to the medical education department last week.
Minister Singh was unhappy about a tender worth Rs 45 crore for light and sound shows at historical monuments. He had alleged that the terms and conditions in the tender were meant to favour a company and refused to go to office until the matter was sorted out.
Singh had said that he, and not the officers, are held responsible in the state assembly.
“I have to give answer in the House. Therefore, files must come to me. I can’t answer without seeing the files,” Singh had said.
Pandya was, however, not the only officer to face Singh’s wrath. His predecessor H. Guite too was moved to a different department as the minster wasn’t pleased with him.
Officers don’t listen — the common refrain
Forest Minister Sukhram Vishnoi, Food and Civil Supply Minister Ramesh Meena, Health Minister Dr Raghu Sharma and Cooperative Minister Udaylal Anjana too did not get along with senior civil servants in their respective departments.
Although Kalla and Jain succeeded in getting “troubled” officers out of their ministries, the latest incident between Khachariyawas and Srivastava suggests that this problem is unlikely to be resolved soon.
This apart, the ministers and MLAs have complained against lower-rung civil servants too. The common refrain among ministers and legislators is that ‘officers don’t listen’.
‘Uncooperative’ bureaucracy is not a new phenomenon in Rajasthan. Irrespective of which party is in power, the minsters and MLAs always have always complained about it. Ministers in the Vasundhara Raje government have also faced this issue.
A retired civil servant, who doesn’t want to be named, however, said there’s too much political pressure on IAS officers nowadays.
“I feel that young officers are less fortunate compared to their seniors because 25-30 years ago political pressure was not that much and we did not have public representatives like they have today,” he said.
Old-timers in politics often share an interesting anecdote to suggest how politicians held sway over the civil servants in the past.
Once the late Kumbharam Arya, who was the revenue minister in the Mohan Lal Sukhadia government in the 1960s, was on a tour in his home district Churu when a farmer came up, requesting to allot land to him. Arya then asked him to get a blank paper, but he couldn’t find one. So, Arya signed on the farmer’s palm and asked him to show that to ‘Bade Babu’ — he used to call IAS officers in his department ‘Bade Babu’. The farmer got the land later.